CSG Party Profile: Engage Michigan
With University of Michigan Central Student Government elections coming up on March 27 and 28, The Daily sat down with executive candidates of each party to discuss their platform, ideas and objectives. In this article, we profile the Engage Michigan Party, headed by presidential candidate Ben Gerstein and vice presidential candidate Isabelle Blanchard.
LSA sophomore Ben Gerstein is originally from the suburbs of Chicago. He first became involved in Central Student Government during his freshman year after being encouraged by a friend to run as an LSA representative. After serving in the position for the last two years, Gerstein is running as for CSG president in the Engage Michigan Party.
“When I got into Michigan, I heard about CSG from a friend of mine who was already at Michigan who was involved,” Gerstein said. “He said a lot of CSG presents a really good platform to materialize those passions into direct action and create tangible solutions for a lot of issues. It also is a space where you can advocate for your needs and the needs of your community, but also learn about the needs about other communities and become a voice for those as well.”
Similar to Gerstein, LSA junior Isabelle Blanchard, originally from California, joined CSG during her first year at the University through interning for past CSG president David Schafer. As a sophomore, Blanchard became the chief programing officer of the eMerge, the party of former CSG president Anushka Sarkar. In this position, Blanchard said she enjoyed being able to interact more with students and wants to continue to do so in her future CSG roles as she runs for vice president.
The Engage Michigan Party’s platform highlights eight key issues the party plans to focus on. These include accessibility and affordability, sexual assault awareness and prevention, and student support, among others.
Gerstein said Engage Michigan’s overarching mission is to broaden the impact and reach that CSG has on campus by providing more resources to students. According to Gerstein and Blanchard, the party plans to institute a comprehensive resource guide for students detailing campus needs. They also plan to institute Diag Days, a monthly resource fair on North and Central campuses.
“The resource guide is a more long-term solution to the lack of a centralized location for student resources on campus,” Gerstein said. “Diag Days are sort of a more materialized version of that project, and it’s a more short-term version of the broader idea of expanding the resources and expanding information about the resources on campus ... We are presenting a short-term and long-term plan for how CSG can better utilize the University’s resources and their own resources to maximize their impact and reach.”
Blanchard spends much of her time on North Campus as a computer science major. She said Engage Michigan hopes to expand the resources available on North Campus — specifically regarding Counseling and Psychological Services and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center — so all students have the same assistance, regardless of where they live.
“Since I do computer science, I’m often on North Campus, and I’ve noticed ... that there’s a lot of lack of resources up there, such as mental health offices for CAPS and SAPAC,” Blanchard said. “A lot of parties have tried to address this in previous years, but what I think I’m really happy with on our platform is that we have short-term and long-term solutions to this issue, with the long-term goal of getting these offices on the North Campus master plan.”
Blanchard also addressed the platform’s short-term plan to implement CAPS and SAPAC services on North Campus.
“Our short-term plan is just putting counselors up there to have almost like office hours in a lot of the rooms that you can even reserve as a student,” Blanchard said. “Just being on North Campus and that being such an important part of our campus, I’m really happy that we’ve addressed that and acknowledged those students and also made resources for them to better their time at Michigan.”
Both Gerstein and Blanchard said the main reason they decided to run together was due to their diverse experience in CSG. They said they believe that together, their combined experience can positively impact the University.
“I think the reason Ben and I are running together is we both, as he mentioned, were on the same administration last year, but we also served in very different roles: Ben was a rep on the legislative side and I was the chief programming officer on the executive side,” Blanchard said. “I think what we saw was super great about our teamwork was that we had balance and we cover the big aspects of CSG. We have a lot of the institutional knowledge and experience in both backgrounds, and that was really important in our partnership.”
Gerstein said the Engage Michigan campaign wants to engage a broader population of students at the University of Michigan and make them feel personally impacted, welcome and supported by CSG. If elected, he said he hopes students will continue to share their concerns on campus with CSG.
“I think it’s really encouraging to see that students are bringing their concerns with the current University policy to CSG and using CSG as a space where they can be advocates and their voices can be heard by leaders in the student body,” Gerstein said. “I think that experience of having students come in and advocate for their specific concerns is proof of what we want to do more broadly.”
LSA sophomore Alex Johnson, Engage Michigan’s communications director, said he believes it is very important to be well-educated when voting in an election. He encourages students to go into the election with knowledge on each candidate running.
“We’re going to be out there, working to get students’ attention and working to have students interact with us,” Johnson said. “But vice-versa, I think the best thing to do in an election is to be well-researched and well-informed about what you’re walking into. Whether that’s looking through our website and our platform or our competitors’, making sure that students see this as an opportunity to voice what they want on campus, the best way to do that is to get involved.”